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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

328                The Loom of Language
For instance, names of trees assigned to the second declensjon of
Classical Latin were feminine, though they had the nominative singular
affix -us of masculine adjectives Similarly the first declension, mainly
made of feminine nouns such as regina (queen) included masculine
words such as nauta (sailor) and poeta (poet) Tree-names which were
feminine like populus (poplar) of which the French is penpher have
become masculine m modern Romance languages
The disappearance of a distinct neuter form of the adjective or, what
comes to the same thing, a neuter class of nouns, had akeady begun in
classical tunes Authors near to the people would write dorsus (back)
for dorsutn> or caelus for caelum. In so far as all Latin nouns which have
the nominative singular affax ~wn were neuter, their character was
obliterated by the phonetic decay of the final consonant3 -m, like the
decay of the distinctive masculine or feminine accusative case-mark
In late Latin the drift from neuter to masculine became a headlong
retreat. Hence most Latin neuter nouns which survive in modern
Romance languages are now placed in the masculine gender-class; and
anyone who has learned a little Latin can usually apply his knowledge
of Latin genders with success, i e masculine and feminine nouns retain
the same gender., and neuters become masculine Thus vinum (wine),
impenurn (empire) and regnum (a kingdom) become (le) v^n> (uri) empire,
and (le) regne in French. The exceptions to this rule are few, and some
of them are explicable. In so far as the nominative or accusative plural
ending of Latin neuter nouns was -#, it was the same as the nominative
singular of the more typical feminine noun-class represented by porta
If the meaning of a Latin neuter was such that the plural could be used
in a collective sense, or for a pair (cf news or scissors), it could be used
in a singular context Thus the Latin neuter plural, foha (foliage)
becomes the singular feminine lafeuille for a leaf in modern French.
The reader has already had a hint about how knowledge of the forms
of the noun in Vulgar Latin throws light on the different types of plural
formation in the modern Romance languages The greater luxuriance
of the Latin adjective also helps us to understand the different types of
adjective concord which have survived Latin adjectives for the most
part belong to the three-gender type bonus, -a, -um> or to the two-
gender class tnstts-tnste (sad), utihs-utile (useful) or facihs-factle (easy)
The disappearance of the neuter means that survivors of the three-
gender class now have only masculine and feminine forms—Spanish
bueno-buena (sing), buenos-buenas (pi), Italian buono-buona, buom-
e> French bcm-bome, bons-bonnes The survivors of the two-gender